Home  >  Latest News  >  Finding a Kneesy Mode

Finding a Kneesy Mode

Earlier this year a physiotherapist told me that the way I stood on my feet was incorrect.

I’d been doing it wrong for almost thirty years. Not just wrong, actually, but harmful to my ankles, knees, and back. My legs hung off the examination table in the physio’s office, and she moved my feet into different positions as if adjusting a mannequin.

Eventually she stood me up, and told me to imagine a grape was under each foot, in the centre. The aim was to stand in a way that wouldn’t squash these grapes. I almost lost my balance, but eventually I stood in a precarious position that maintained the safety of these imaginary plump, red grapes (I imagined them plump and red).  

“That’s it,” she said. “That’s how you’ll need to stand from now on. Even with insoles in your shoes, remember the grapes.”  

I didn’t expect to be relearning the instinctive technique of standing still. The appointment, after three months on a waiting list after a doctor’s referral, was for chronic knee pain 

My aching knees have been an issue for a few years, but until last January I chalked it down to getting old (ridiculous because I was still in my twenties). As 2022 rolled in, however, it became a pain I could neither ignore nor remedy with ibuprofen and paracetamol. No matter how many knee-supports from Boots I tried, the dull ache sharpened and I couldn’t bear it. I made the hard decision to stop running, which was a blow. Running was my anxiety coping strategy. And yet, my knees continued to keep me awake at night.

The chronic and persistent fluctuation between sharp burn and dull ache sometimes brought me to tears, and eventually I quit my job behind the till at a petrol station. I needed to pay the rent, but I opted for financial worry over nine hours a day of physical agony without rest or possibility of a seat. Come to think of it, six months at that job must have aggravated my knees a great deal. Jobless and distressed, I called the doctor.   

In the time between the doctor’s referral and the physio’s appointment, I was on a cocktail of codeine, naproxen, and various anti-inflammatory gels that more burned skin than relieved sleep-stealing joint pain. It was a grim period. All I could do was lie around, regretting not doing something about this sooner. Things started going to shit elsewhere in my life, too, and it all got too much. It turns out chronic physical pain isn’t particularly good for chronic mental pain. My Sertraline dose quadrupled.  

When the aforementioned physio appointment came, and I learned that it was all due to my flat feet – much-needed hope appeared. I’ve known about my flat feet for about thirteen years, but I thought buying shoes with arch support would be enough to, well, support me. It turns out my feet are exceedingly flat, and I’d need to start making a conscious effort to mimic an arch by standing and walking in a certain way.

If I continued in the old archless fashion, the pain would only worsen, and carrying on with the codeine wasn’t something I fancied. So I’ve had to relearn to stand, walk, and maybe someday run – with help of that mental image of a plump, red grape.  

I feel like it’s going to be a lifelong thing; even with my new way of standing and bespoke arch supports, the pain still keeps me awake some nights. Especially if I’ve spent a big part of the day on my feet. I’ve made various lifestyle changes – cut back on booze and sugar (bad for inflammation), and rekindled my love for swimming (a knee friendly exercise). But there’s still a long way to go.

The pain often flares up when I’m doing something I enjoy, like reading, gaming, or writing. This is even tougher than the times it keeps me awake in bed, because enduring pain and focusing on a task is a multitasking that I’m not built for. If the task isn’t a necessity, and can I choose to lie back, close my eyes, and sit with the pain until it goes, then that’s what I’ll do.   

And yet, I still hang onto that hope I had in the physio’s office. A gaming pun is apt for this charity, so I apologise in advance for the cringe. I feel like I’ve been putting my knees through the extreme difficulty setting my entire life, when, actually, there has been an easy mode available – a Kneesy Mode.

This difficulty requires manually altering the settings of the game, to make the experience better suited to a player with bad knees. It involves swimming, not running. It involves knee friendly leg exercises to build up the muscle around the knees, with the aim of taking the load off the knees themselves. It involves mindfulness techniques, so the player can sit with the pain instead of suffering with it.

Kneesy Mode also involves grabbing hope and optimism whenever you see them, and maintaining a sense of humour that involves bad, bad puns.  

Ben’s Muckrack

Ben is a freelance writer based in North Wales. He believes games are one of the most important and undervalued art forms, and aims to share their value to as many people as possible.